As announced in the Fall Newsletter, the calculator policy for the Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition was recently changed. Now that we have had experience with the new policy, it seems that a slight modification is in order.
Renate McLaughlin, the Section's representative to the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics, recently reported on a survey of the high school teachers administering Part I of the MMPC. She notes that "the transition from not allowing calculators on Part I of the MMPC to allowing calculators, and then, with the advent of the TI-89, deciding which calculators to allow, was not easy. One of the prominent concerns has been whether all students have access to calculators." For the 1999 contest, all calculators, including graphing calculators, but not computers, were allowed.
The survey asked, "Will students taking Part I of the MMPC next year have access to graphing calculators?" Of the 214 responses, 162 were an unqualified "yes", and four responses were an unqualified "no". Another nine responses probably are the equivalent of a "yes"; and another 32 responses indicated that only some students would have access. These responses often mention that the school does not have enough graphing calculators for all students, that only students who own a graphing calculator would have access, or that only students in certain courses would have access. The remaining seven responses could not be interpreted. Most verbal comments indicated satisfaction with the current policy.
The Executive Committee at its January 2000 meeting decided to clarify the wording of the policy, and it now reads as follows:
Any calculator is permitted on Part I. Unacceptable machines include portable computers and pocket organizers. All problems will be solvable with no more technology than a scientific calculator. The Exam Committee makes every effort to structure the test to minimize the advantage of a more powerful calculator. No calculators are permitted on Part II.
See the MMPC's Web site at Albion College for more information: http://www.albion.edu/fac/math/mmpc.
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